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Republican Minority Shrinks As State Senator Departs

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A 22-year veteran of the Massachusetts Legislature is stepping down to take a post in the administration at Westfield State University.  It will mean the Republican minority on Beacon Hill will become even smaller. 

   Republican State Senator Michael Knapik of Westfield is going to resign this Friday and begin work next Monday in a newly created position at Westfield State University.   Knapik said he will work closely with the university president and the Westfield State Foundation board in advancing the university’s mission.

   Knapik was first elected to the Massachusetts House in 1991 and then the Senate in 1994. He is the ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee and has served on more state budget conference committees than any other current legislator. 

   He said the decision to leave the legislature for the new job was driven in part by a desire to spend more time with his wife and their two teenage children.

   Knapik is a moderate Republican whose work on behalf of his constituents was praised by Democratic State Senator Gale Candaras of  Wilbraham.

   Candaras said Knapik’s resignation will be a great loss to the Senate.

   Knapik’s resignation will leave just three Republicans in the 40- member senate.  Tim Buckley, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Republican Party, said the prospects for holding onto the seat in the resulting  special election are “very good.”

   Republican State Representative Donald Humason of Westfield  is seen as a likely candidate. Mike Franco, a conservative activist who has run unsuccessfully for elected office, announced he was forming an exploratory committee.

   Cecelia Calabrese, a Republican activist from Agawam, who said she is not a candidate, believes it is important to retain a Republican voice from western Massachusetts in the Senate.

   The senate district, known officially as the Second Hampden and Hampshire District, includes the cities of Westfield, Agawam, Easthampton, Holyoke and part of Chicopee along with the towns of  Granville, Montgomery, Russell, Southampton, Southwick, and Tolland.   Even as he lost to Ed Markey, Republican Gabriel Gomez carried the district by 8 percentage points in  June’s special election for U.S. Senate.

   While  Knapik  said he expects the full Senate will vote to schedule a special election to fill the seat, it could remain vacant until a new legislature is elected in November 2014.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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